Entrance to a bookshop

What is a Book Town?

Most book towns have developed around villages of historic interest or of scenic beauty.

By Paul McShane, Convenor – BookTown Australia

A booktown is a small rural area, usually town or village, with a concentration of booksellers, mainly secondhand and antiquarian, bookshops. The bookshops are often complemented by artisan enterprises such as paper production, calligraphy, printing, book design, book illustration and traditional bookbinding, as well as craft which are not related to books.

Most book towns have developed around villages of historic interest or of scenic beauty. Many older and often unoccupied buildings come to life again as thriving bookshops as a result. The booktown development encourages conservation of the cultural and architectural heritage. It also attracts discerning visitors to the region usually well-educated with high discretionary spending potential. They prefer to stay in guesthouses, hostels or bed and breakfasts, and also patronise the local antique stores, cafes, restaurants, hotels and souvenir stores during their stay.

Outside building bookshop
One of the many booksellers in Hay-on-Wye in the UK, the original Book Town.

The international book town movement includes the following villages and towns showing their date of establishment:

Hay-on-Wye UK (1961)

Bredevoort Netherlands (1993)

Montolieu France (1989)

Redu Belgium (1984)

Fjærland Norway (1995)

Stillwater USA (1993)

Wigtown Scotland (1997)

Sidney-by-the-Sea (BC Canada)

Gold Cities BookTown,Grass Valley — Nevada City

Becherel, Northern France (1988)

Kembuchi Children’s Picture-Book Village, Hokkaido, Japan (1991)

St. Pierre de Clages, Switzerland (1993)

Fontenoy la Joute, North-eastern France (1993)

Miyawaga Children’s Book Village, Gifu, Japan (1993)

Waldstadt Wunsdorf, Brandenburg, Germany (1997)

Damme, Belgium (1997)

Dalmellington, Scotland, UK (1997)

Sysma, Finland (4th July 1997)

Muehlbeck/Friedersdorf, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany (1997)

Kampung Buku Malaysia, Langkawi (1997)

Hay-On-Wye: Where Booktowns all began:

The “King of Hay”. Richard Booth, the man who started it all http://www.richardkingofhay.com/book-towns.html

Hay-on-Wye – the Town Council/Tourist Association http://www.hay-on-wye.co.uk/bookshops/default.asp

Hay’s LitFest – One of the World’s Largest! https://www.hayfestival.com/home

A Guide to Hay-On-Wye and its Book history

Rooftops in a village
The village of Hay-on-Wye.
Hay Castle Bookshop.
Bookshops in Hay-on-Wye, UK.